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Sunday, September 25, 2022


Recent News


by Kerm Helmer
Collegiate Fever


Kerm Helmer
September 26, 1998

by Kerm Helmer

Karl Nickolai is

Should you be sitting home, on campus, or anywhere else and surfing through the net and want to know about college bowling, just punch up A word of warning if you want to spend the time to review it all, you better call your friends, tell them you are going to be tied up, buy a pizza, buy a liter of pop and strap yourself in and let that mouse fly. The Web Page includes among many other items All-American Teams, tournament results, college records, coaches directory, Top Ten scores for the season and team and individual tournament schedules for the coming season. During the season, the Page almost dittos ESPN 2 ticker info with block by block totals for selected events.

What corporation is behind this? How big is the staff that compiles all this information? How big is the budget to get this to anyone that wants to know? The answer is Karl Nickolai with a little help from his friends. No corporation-no staff and only Karl's time and funds when needed.

Who is Karl Nickolai? The book says Karl is a former member of the Michigan State University-a law degreed and practicing attorney in the state of Michigan and currently the Coach of Michigan State University Men's Team. Someone with an intense interest in the present and future of Intercollegiate Bowling.

But who really is Karl? I first met Karl when he was a member of the Michigan State team. A couple of seasons later he became a burr in my saddle, an itch I couldn't scratch. I was serving as the Chairman of the YABA Collegiate Committee and he was working on his law degree. The Committee received a letter from Karl requesting the rule disallowing graduate students to compete intercollegiately be changed. The first time it came on the table, the discussion lasted about 15 minutes and the vote was no. When the Committee met the next time, there was an appeal of the decision by Guess Who. This time the Committee looked at the additional materials but once again voted no. Six months later an appeal to the appeal arrived, I thought I was getting another telephone book. The difference this time was Karl made enough of a case for consideration, that contact was made with him. Negotiating on certain points was done and finally the rule was adjusted to allow graduate students under certain guidelines to complete their college eligibility.

A year or two following the "Karl Nickolai Graduate Rule" scenario, there was a decision to hold a sort of college bowling summit involving leaders from throughout the industry to take a close look at Intercollegiate Bowling. When it came time to send out the invitations, I wanted Karl in the room. I still didn't know him very well, but I knew I would rather have him there so any issues he brought up could be answered then instead of receiving another telephone book after the meeting. By the time the three day meeting ended I realized Karl Nickolai was very sharp, had his head screwed on straight and had the best interest of Collegiate Bowling in mind.

The years have passed and Karl and I have become good friends. We have served on many committees together. We still disagree over some issues, but I know when a decision is made no matter which one gets the votes, the final decision was made in the best interest of the Collegiate program in total.

Along with being a successful attorney, trying to raise a family and coach the Michigan State team, he somehow found the time to begin and continually advance I know for a fact sometimes he is scanning in information around the 3:00 AM time. Who is he doing this for? You, me and anyone else interested in Collegiate Bowling.

Each year the National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association honors someone who's dedication to Collegiate Bowling goes up and beyond. The honor is given in the form of an award titled the "Gordon Tiegen Award". Gordon is considered by many the "Godfather of Intercollegiate Bowling". I am not sure if Karl has ever received this award, but I will find out before nominations and voting takes place during the annual coaches association meeting in November. If he hasn't been recognized up to this point, then the time has come.

During the season, if you see Karl at a tournament, walk up and introduce yourself to him and just say thanks. If you want to do it quicker, then just e-mail him at nickolai @

I have always said one of the greatest thing about my career in Collegiate Bowling are the people I have had the opportunity to meet and work with. Karl Nickolai (Mr. is one of the best.


This article originally appeared in Spares & Strikes, a bowling newspaper serving the Greater Buffalo/  Western New York Area. It is reprinted here with the permission of the author.